Three UC Riverside undergraduates are among the 2019 recipients of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, one of the country’s most prestigious and competitive awards in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, or STEM.
Four undergraduates were endorsed by UCR for consideration by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which received over 5,000 applications nationwide. Having three of four endorsees selected is a first for the university, said Gladis Herrera-Berkowitz, director of student engagement with the office of Undergraduate Education. UCR has had 11 awardees since 2013.
“This is the first time that our campus has been awarded three Goldwaters,” Herrera-Berkowitz said. “I am very proud that UCR is one of the top producing Goldwaters in the UC system. This demonstrates the great mentorship that students received from faculty on our campus.”
Students who apply for campus endorsement complete a rigorous application process, including several essay revisions, a faculty committee interview, and an interview with Jennifer Brown, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Education. Sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply.
The Goldwater Foundation considered 1,223 candidates total, and selected 496 finalists. The pool was so large, the foundation decided to increase the number of awardees, foundation officials stated on their website.
Each accolade is attached to a one-time financial award of up to $7,500.
The Goldwater application process challenges students to think deeply about their research and long-term goals. Many students use the process as the foundation for other prestigious award applications.
Meet UCR’s 2019 Goldwater recipients:
Kang just completed his third year as a biology major. The 20-year-old junior wants to further explore his interest in mechanisms of human disease and possible treatments.
To be more specific, Kang’s interests lie in researching medical drugs that can help cure diseases such as cancer or macular degeneration. His research is guided by mentors such as Jefferson Perry, assistant professor of biochemistry; Jack Eichler, associate professor of teaching in chemistry; and Ryan Julian, professor of chemistry.
“This is the ultimate application of biological research,” said Kang, who grew up in Murrieta. “I want to help people who are less fortunate.”
The financial support means he won’t have to work during his senior year. “If I don’t have to work, it will allow me that time to pursue more research and allow time for other goals, such as preparing for graduate school,” Kang said.
Cort is conducting research on infectious diseases, specifically, on malaria. He’s looking at malaria parasites, their DNA structure, and the proteins involved.
“I knew I wanted to do something related to human health,” said Cort, 20, who grew up in Huntington Beach.
This cell, molecular, and developmental biology major plans to pursue a doctorate in molecular biology. Last year, Cort completed a summer internship at Johns Hopkins University.
Winning a Goldwater scholarship means support for his tuition and an opportunity to attend science and medical conferences he otherwise could not afford on his own, said Cort, a first-generation student.
“I don’t think I would have gotten these opportunities at another campus. Because of those opportunities, I get to grow,” Cort said. “The type of research I do requires working alongside faculty and UCR has so much to give. The opportunities are there, waiting for you to take them.”
Seo takes great pride in being a Goldwater recipient. The recognition and the financial support bring some reassurance, she said.
Seo is investigating material that can utilize the body to regenerate damaged or broken tissue. Seo has also conducted research on biodegradable orthopedics and neurological implants. She wants to create a type of biodegradable screw to help stabilize internal fractures and a type of biodegradable needle to act as a probe that can measure wave lengths.
Is it a challenge? Yes. But Seo is thrilled about it. Receiving the Goldwater scholarship for this La Cañada Flintridge native will allow her to conduct more research and participate in conferences where she can learn more from other researchers and scientists.
“It’s a great opportunity, a great blessing,” said Seo, who will be starting her fourth year in the fall. “I’m still processing this. I’m learning to be grateful and learning to take advantage of opportunities like this one.”
Other students who also received awards for their research:
Raymond Ezzat, biochemistry, received the Donald Strauss Scholarship for his project, titled “Project 79: Long-term career advancement for refugee men in Riverside County.”
Russel Alamirano, art history, will be participating in The Fulbright U.S. Student Program and traveling to Austria.
Cindy Yanez, physics, received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program award.
Sofia Martinez Alberga, mathematics, received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program award.
Samir Al-Alami, political science and international affairs, will be participating in the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Summer Institute seven-week summer program.